Finding the balance

Too warm: Solve all the problems. Do all the things. Turn every idea into an action or object in the real world. And do it perfectly.

Too cold: Relax. Talk to people, occasionally. Read great books. Savor the moments between. How you do this one thing is how you do everything.

Just right:

…nope sorry I got nothing no way in the world I can possibly figure out what’s between these two extremes there’s nothing in the middle warm is perfect until it’s not cold is perfect until it’s not gee if only there was some way that one could find something that was hunh I don’t know maybe a little bit of both meh no warm is perfect oh wait no cold is perfect.

Right. It’s so patently obvious where the balance would lie. And yet, when I’m polarized one way or the other… now, where is that damn forest?! All these trees are blocking my view!

ɕ

Urgency

This is a topic I revisit often in my personal reflection. When I write, I sometimes remember to search my own site to see what else I’ve written on the topic at hand. Lose no time, is exactly as useful to me—hint: incredibly—as when I first wrote it.

I find that things go well once I’m heads-down tinkering away on some specific task. I’ve also learned, but relatively recently in my journey if I’m being honest, to enjoy myself at a relaxed pace in the times leading up to important things; that phone call in an hour, the doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, etc. In those two cases where it quite clearly could, the urgency demon does not actually come knocking on my door.

As you’re expecting, I’m going to say that there is a third case where the urgency demon does show up, bites off my head, and dances on my chest: When I’m thinking. A thought drifts through the living room of my mind; “that’s a good point, I should do such-and-so about that.” Another thought arrives on the stoop and rings the bell; “oh, yeah that’s probably important and if I just nip it in the bud…” And another thought slips in with the second thought when I open the front door; “actually, I busted my ass on that and now I’m stuck waiting on…” Those three thoughts, now in my living room, realize it’s a party, they each message three friends, and nine new thoughts arrive; “I thought I had all this stuff under control [you should see my systems!] how are there a dozen of you partying in my house? …who brought music?!” Another thought streaks through unbidden; “hey wait, I totally know I had that sorted out, and you agreed to wear clothing…” The pizza delivery guy arrives to feed all the thoughts. Ride-shares queue up my block to pick up the drunken revelers barfing on my lawn. The cops do a second slow-roll after the third noise complaint. And how is there a bonfire in the yard?!

I eventually panic, and flee to food or distraction.

It’s not quite splitting; I sometimes do that, but knowing what it is makes it pretty easy to avoid. It’s not quite catastrophizing; again, been there, know what that is. I think it’s simply mental overload—in the sense of physical exhaustion combined with some feedback looping. The sure sign, for me at least, is when everything starts to seem urgent. When everything seems urgent, (and none of the things are actually urgent in the way choking or a heart attack are urgent,) that’s a sure sign to call, “bullshit!” and to walk—not run—to something other than thinking. Rather than wait until I panic and flee to negative distractions, I’m working on throwing my hands up much sooner at that party: “Well, this is clearly going to get out of hand. I’m outta’ here.”

ɕ

There is no trick

Stop searching for magic tricks. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. The fool will find this idea depressing. The wise person will find this liberating. So it goes.

~ Hugh Macleod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2020/02/29/the-trick-is-there-is-no-trick/

No.

But I do still agree with Hugh.

You see, it’s really a paradox: Understanding that the trick is that there is no trick enables you to see the trick.

Only after you truly believe there is no trick, and you truly roll up your sleeves and get to work—and not just work for a day or a week or a year, but instead truly pour your entire self into something…

Only after you truly believe there is no trick, and you truly roll up your sleeves and get to work, can you understand what the trick really is.

Reading this now, you either know the trick—congratulations, honestly and I’m sorry you had to suffer along the way but look what you’ve learned…

Reading this now, you either know the trick, or you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

What? …you thought I was going to tell you the trick? But, I just did.

ɕ

Banish distraction

You and I impose order onto our days not to make ourselves stiff or rigid or wooden but in order render impotent the pull of the superficial and the random and the current. We fix our attention not on the petty opportunities and emergencies of the day but on our inner Polaris, even if it’s something as humble as a kiosk business we’re trying to launch or a free app we’re aiming to design. We banish distraction so that we can address our call, our Unconscious, the summons of our Muse.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2013/03/a-natural-life/

Some days the call—the summons of the Muse—is pleasant and I skip through my tasks. Some days it is not. No matter how many times I study the lesson, it’s still hard for me to believe in what can be accomplished through small daily advances.

Increasingly, (compared to, say, 20 years ago,) my body doesn’t cooperate, and some days my mind doesn’t cooperate. But on balance, I can say I’m making progress on the things which are important to me. I don’t expect to finish anything—you should see the book collection, for example—and that’s fine by me.

Chop wood; carry water. (Read a book. Watch a great movie. Jump on stuff. Go for a walk. Mix and season to taste…)

ɕ

Please stop laughing at me

It’s pretty safe to say, that when you finally come up with your million-dollar idea, nobody is going to understand it at first. They many not laugh in your face outright, but they’ll probably scratch their heads, at least.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2018/05/15/great-ideas-lonely-childhoods/

…except it probably should be “…with [my] two-dollar idea…”, but anyway.

It’s been crystal clear to me for years, that my Movers Mindset project is not understood. In the beginning that was frustrating; I felt like it was so obviously awesome, that it was insulting that people didn’t understand what I was trying to do. After a few years of learning, I’ve let go of—or at least, I often manage to let go of… but sometimes still have to remind myself— After a few years of learning, I’ve let go of trying to shout louder.

These days, I try to step back often and look at everything in my life and assess whether or not it brings me joy or is inherently necessary to enable things that bring me joy. It’s a happy day when I find something that takes up my time and which I dislike and which I don’t need to be doing. I’ve no compunctions chucking stuff over the transom.

ɕ

What versus how

When you find yourself stuck on some decision, figure out if you are stuck on the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. Every situation is different, but here are some examples:

Thinking about marriage: You’re likely to be stuck on the ‘what’. Should I get married? Should I marry this person? You’re stuck on what should I do. If you decide to get married, it’s quite simple. You probably need a marriage license and a simple legal ceremony. The how you get married is almost always very easy.

Thinking about quitting college: You’re likely to be stuck on the ‘what’. Should I quit? Should I continue? How you quit is very easy; go to the Registrar’s office, and they’ll give you a form. (Actually, you could simply walk away and they’ll do the quitting for you.)

Thinking about changing jobs: You’re likely stuck on the ‘how’. I don’t like this job; I’d like that other career. Straightforward what I should do. But how do I do that? Existing family commitments, monetary support, contracts with your employer… So how you change jobs is hard.

Side hustles: I want to start a side-project working on my passion. How do I do that in my spare time? How do I create a business? How do I find some funding. Again, the what is easy and the how is hard.

It isn’t that being stuck on one versus the other is better or worse. But figuring out which you are stuck on—hopefully it’s one and not both—will clarify your thinking and will show you the type of help you should seek.

I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it.

I don’t know what I want to do, but I know how to do it.

When you’re stuck, figure out where your “don’t” lies. Then figure out who you can ask for guidance to help you remove your “don’t” so you’re left with:

I know what I want to do, and I know how to do it.

ɕ

§25 – Fun days

(Part 37 of 37 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Chapter 25, starts with, “You are feeling crappy.” Why, yes. Yes I am.

I know how to train hard. I know how to play and have fun. I have complete freedom in what I do with my days. Complete. There is not a single responsibility I have which I have not freely chosen to take on; freely chosen in both the sense that I was under no obligation to choose it, and that I felt it was a worthwhile responsibilit to take on. Sometimes I train, sometimes I play. This shit? I’ve got this shit figured out.

Problem: If I’m having fun, afterwards I feel guilty because the things I’m responsible for are not getting done. Always. Every time. It’s a disease of the mind that undercuts everthing I ever manage to accomplish. There’s no point telling me that this thinking/guilt is wrong; I am well aware. There’s no point trying to help me get things done. (It’s not possible to finish everything.) There’s no point telling me to relax/unwind/have-fun. (That’s the space where the problem rears it’s ugly head.)

The only solution— scratch that. The only progress I’ve made is to give up on things. (For example, years ago I gave up on reading science-fiction. I gave away stacks of books and I only look back occassionally to doublecheck that I don’t miss it.) I just keep hacking and slashing and saying “no” to as many things as I can.

I’m hoping some day to be able to enjoy life, without the guilt.

ɕ

Is it a process?

Not everything is a process, but much of what you do each day is a process. How much of what you do each day is a process, but you don’t realize it is? Because you’re wasting your life in that gap.

Two examples to illuminate my thinking, then you’re on your own:

Groceries. You know there’s a process for this. Get in car. Travel to store(s). Move through store in the usual pattern. Select things. Pay and leave. Travel home. Exit car. Move purchases into domicile and put them away.

Laundry. Move dirty clothing to the washing machine. Load machine with clothes and detergent. Start machine. Return later. Flip laundry to drier or to hang-dry. Return later. Fold or organize clean laundry. Return clothing to domicile storage.

Every detail of those processes will be different for each of us. You know your exact process very well, and you could tell me your process, just as I’ve done above. But these processes are actually closed loops which you are going to repeat a huge number of times. I could append, “Wear clothes. Repeat.” to the laundry process, and I could add, “Consume food. Repeat.” to the grocery process.

You know you can optimize things, but the entire process can be optimized—should be optimized. If it’s a process, you’re doing it by rote. (Yes, you can focus on what you’re doing and enjoy it. But you’re not doing anything creative.) So optimize the entire process. Is a car the optimal way to go get your groceries? Where do you keep the grocery list? How do things get put onto that list? Where do groceries etc. get stored in your domicile? How do you prepare and plan meals to use the groceries? Where do you store your dirty laundry? Where do you store “wear this again” clothing? How do you store and rotate seasonally changing clothes? How do you replace items that wear out? If it’s a process, you can optimize it and then you can spend less time on it.

Groceries and laundry are simply my examples. What other things do you do in your life that are processes which you haven’t considered at all? If you thought about them, and organized and optimized the process, how much time would it save you? Aren’t you always wishing you had more time? How much better would your mind work if it wasn’t trying to remember, and struggle through poorly-designed, (or worse, figured out on-the-fly each time,) processes?

What could you do with all that extra time?

Could you use that free time for things in your life that are not processes? Read a book… Spend a day relaxing on a beach… Have dinner with a friend…

To me, “life balance” is about how much time I spend on things which are processes versus things which are not processes.

ɕ

Lose no time

I suspect some people need to cultivate a sense of urgency to motivate them. I need less motivation. I need less urgency.

I managed to create a life where my perception is that every waking moment I’m either on-task or off. Every waking moment is either doing something that moves me towards my goals, or a moment of relaxation and unwinding—self-care practices so to speak. (Of course, there’s another third of my life when I’m asleep.)

It’s perfectly obvious that there is no such thing as work versus life balance. There’s just life. Some moments I’m doing this thing. Some moments that thing. Some moments resting my eyes. Some moments eating. Some moments interacting with this person. Some moments with that person. Many moments I’m alive.

The only way it would make sense to talk about work versus life… I don’t mean work, defined as when money is changing hands. I mean work as in efforts spent progressing towards a goal. The only way it would make sense to talk about work versus life balance would be if I were two—or more—different people; the work me and the life me. I can readily see how that could be a thing. I can see people who do that, or at least they try to do that. It’s completely obvious when people try to be one person in work contexts and another for themselves. I’m not sure I ever tried to do that. I’m sure that I don’t want to do that.

There’s just me. There’s just life. I need to catch myself making a distinction between work and life. That would be a moment, earlier than where I’m currently trying to solve my problems, where I might have more purchase.

ɕ

Decisions decisions decisions

Over and over, throughout the day, we make the Hundred Little Decisions: to work on this, to check email, to go to this website, to respond to messages, to grab a bite to eat, to meditate or exercise or do yoga or have tea or watch a video or push into deep purpose.

~ Leo Babauta, from http://zenhabits.net/decisions/

As usual, Leo has this boiled down to its essence. I certainly make plenty of bad, in-the-moment decisions. These generally relate to food or entertainment, as escapes from stress and workload—both are entirely self-imposed and positively feedback into each other. I’m convinced that no amount of good intentions, nor mantras, nor little sticky notes, etc. can save me.

My mistakes are made much farther back in time. The mistake is not what I do when I feel frustrated; the mistake was starting the 42nd task during which I became frustrated. The mistake was putting 47 things on my todo list—not literally on paper, but in my set of expectations of myself. When I get to item 41, there’s absolutely not way I’m not going to start on number 42 when I have my eyes on the goal of 47.

I am completely on board with the idea that what one can accomplish in a lifetime is astounding, and that I can get there by simply doing a little bit, (of whatever it is,) each day. I understand that idea, but it appears in action too rarely in my life. I have a nice, sparse, morning routine and each day—more than two hours after I’ve awakened—I get to the point where I “surface.” Where I open up all the communication tools, project management system, notes, everything… and I plan my day.

This is where I fail; around 7:30am. Every day I grab life by the short hair and set out to tackle All The Things allocated for today. Every self-cursed day, I get to the 42nd item and get frustrated, tired, hungry, discouraged or whatever.

This problem is not solved with sticky notes at the spots where decisions are made in real time. This problem is solved in my first two hours in the morning… where I should be thinking:

What would a good day look like today?

ɕ

P.S.: I’m adamantly opposed to planning “tomorrow” before going to sleep. The last thing I want to do, at the end of my day, is wade into what tomorrow holds, in the end-of-day, wound down, ready for restorative rest, mode. That’s crazy. It’s also presumptuous about there being a tomorrow into which I will awaken—the last thing I ever want to do is have someone find me dead, and see the stupid crap I was planning to do the next day. The only sane course of action is to wake up, begin the day with a fresh start and see what it holds in store.